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Ultrasound: making waves where it has never gone before

by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | July 06, 2015
Population Health Primary Care Ultrasound Women's Health
From the July 2015 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Fusion imaging, the merging of ultrasound with MRI or CT images, is a sophisticated tool gaining ground in the operating room. Meanwhile elastography, for soft tissue evaluation, may even bring the value of ultrasound to lung imaging – an area where it had previously been of little use due to the modality’s inability to penetrate air. Rocha with Philips says premium ultrasound is also beginning to show promise as a treatment tool, and cites dissolving blood clots as one example.

Carestream plans to unveil lower-level versions of its ultrasound over time, all of which will feature exchangeable transducers that tell the system what kind of study is being conducted, a standardized user interface, and a physician log-in to access functionality preferences and implement them automatically. “If you can have a platform that’s completely scalable from ultra-premium down to point-of-care — we know that works for our customers,” says Hartmann.

What is revolutionary is hard to accept
For Rocha, the relationship between handheld ultrasound and premium ultrasound is comparable to the relationship between smart phones and supercomputers. The question of which is more powerful may depend on how one measures productivity. Nodgren’s Trice Imaging is currently doing a project in rural Texas connecting 20 ambulances to hospitals via handheld ultrasound.

“It has to do with getting the patient info to the right health care facility, having the right staff ready when the patient arrives, and also knowing if there’s any point in bringing that patient in at all,” she says. Results of that project are expected to be published in August.

Nodgren says in Asian markets, where there is an aging population and the younger populations are moving to the city, elderly care has been disrupted. Meanwhile, traditionally Western diseases like obesity and cardiac disease are becoming more common in Eastern countries. These are areas where she thinks handheld ultrasound can make a big difference.

The projects Trice Imaging is involved with are not the only ones of their kind. As part of its Cape Town to Cairo road show, Philips Healthcare has unveiled its Visiq tablet ultrasound to address issues of maternal and infant care in remote areas. GE designed the Vscan Access specifically for midwives, general practitioners, paramedics, and clinical officers in developing regions of Africa and Southeast Asia.

There was a time when the capabilities of today’s handheld ultrasounds could outperform the refrigerator-size ultrasound machines of yore. It stands to reason then, that as time rolls on the capabilities we now associate with premium ultrasound systems will find their way into more portable, more affordable systems and, in turn, more parts of the world.

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